After six years as an early-January gathering of youth from across the Great Plains Conference, the OneEvent is changing its focus, its location and its calendar for 2020.
The “OneEvent Reimagined” is scheduled for June 14-18 in Lincoln and Omaha.
“We’re moving to a mission trip model,” said the Rev. Melissa Collier Gepford, intergenerational discipleship coordinator. “This will be basically a turnkey mission opportunity for youth groups.”
Gepford said she and members of the Conference Council on Youth Ministries will be working with local churches in Lincoln and Omaha to become host churches and for mission work opportunities in the area.
All of the youth and their leaders will gather for worship on Sunday, June 14.
“We’ll kick off the week with worship all together in one location and they’ll check in with their home-base churches,” Gepford said. “They’ll be spending the nights there and eating dinner there and having some devotions and smaller group worship time each night when they come back from their work sites.”
On the final night, Thursday, June 18, all of the participants will gather for a final worship and sending-forth.
Gepford said among the goals is to get the youth of the Great Plains working together in a community.
“We want to invest in our conference youth and their spiritual journeys as they love God and the earth,” she said. “We want to give them an opportunity to serve others this year.”
Registration for youth groups will begin this fall, she added, and individuals can register beginning in the spring.
The OneEvent, which predates the formation of the Great Plains Conference, has been a gathering of youth in early January from the two states that has included worship, praise bands, motivational speakers, workshops, dances and other activities.
However, the number has steadily declined, from a peak of 1,200 in 2015 and 2016 to a little over 900 this year.
“A lot of the numbers have been going down in the past couple of years,” said Bailey Talbott, co-president of CCYM. “We thought that with moving it and doing something new, it might help more people come to these events.”
Talbot, co-president with Will Bannister, said the changes will have a positive effect.
“We thought we’d have more people come because it’s not in the middle of the school year, and churches could use it as a mission trip if they don’t get to go as a church themselves,” she said.
Gepford said her goal was to have an experience that resonated with youth beyond a fun weekend.
“I think it’s wonderful for youth to gather for youth rallies, but I also want to make sure we leave a positive footprint where we go,” she said. “We want to not only invest in our conference youth but invest in the Lincoln and Omaha mission fields through our acts of mercy and justice.”
The five-day OneEvent won’t be all work, Gepford said.
“It won’t be the same kind of fun scheduled like in the past, but I have every faith and expectation that our CCYM youth will be able to plan some fun and exciting activities for our home bases,” she said.
Gepford is meeting with the CCYM in the last days of July and the first days of August to further discuss plans.
The first two OneEvents were held in Grand Island, and the most recent four have been at the Bicentennial Center, now called Tony’s Pizza Events Center, in Salina.
Gepford said some of the feedback she’s already heard has been thankful for the move back to Nebraska.
If a success in 2020, Gepford said, the OneEvent could move to other locations in Kansas and Nebraska.
“We’re not completely married to staying in one location,” she said. “This could be something that could go to other areas in our conference.”
With fluidity in the OneEvent, Gepford said, youth are proving to all of United Methodists that change can be accomplished.
“We are at a time in our denomination and even with this event that it’s time for some reimagining and time for some exciting things to happen,” she said. “I’m open to all sorts of new ideas.”
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